Julius Randle says there’s nothing like being on an eight-game winning streak in New York.
"I’m not going to lie. It’s a lot of fun," he said on an ESPN podcast Thursday.
Yet there is one person in New York who doesn’t seem to be enjoying the Knicks’ longest winning streak in seven years. Coach Tom Thibodeau, the man most responsible for this team being where it is, rarely looks as if he is enjoying anything.
Using much of the same roster that compiled a 21-45 record under David Fizdale and Mike Miller last season, Thibodeau has the Knicks (33-27) tied with the Hawks for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. You’d never know it by looking at his demeanor on the bench, though.
Whether his team is up by 20 or down by 20, Thibodeau never seems to look truly happy. Go ahead. Google the words "Thibodeau’’ and "smile’’. The combination is so rare that it caused a Twitter sensation two years ago when he grinned awkwardly while appearing as a guest analyst on ESPN.
Thibodeau was asked Friday after practice if he ever lets himself enjoy the winning or if that’s something he will look back on after the season.
"The thing about our group is it’s very enjoyable to be around how we practice and how we prepare," he said. "I love the competition. I love the competitive spirit of the team. All those things go into it. But when you are in the battle, you want to concentrate and there’s an intensity to it. I think that’s important as well. But there’s a time and place for everything."
Derrick Rose, who played for Thibodeau with Chicago, Minnesota and the Knicks, said he has seen him grow as a coach and that he is more positive on the court than he was when he was younger.
"I felt in Minnesota, it was different than in Chicago. That’s life, right? You live and learn," Rose said. "His whole life is basketball . . . It shows a lot that he’s improved as a coach. He was already a great coach, but every year he’s improving and adjusting. He’s giving guys more freedom to go out and play the way they want. He’s been positive on the court."
Rose indicated that Thibodeau’s demeanor during games is simply a product of his competitiveness.
"Sometimes he wants to win so bad," Rose said. "I know as a player, there’s no way you want to win this game more than me. I put my heart and soul into it. For your coach to play that way? Sometimes he’s taking it like he wants it more than me. He’s dedicated his whole life to it. There’s a lot of coaches who don’t have that mentality."
Notes & quotes: Taj Gibson (lacerated eyelid) will be in goggles and available to play Saturday afternoon against the Raptors, Thibodeau said. Nerlens Noel (lacerated lip) also will be available. Alec Burks still is in health and safety protocols and is day-to-day.